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Coalition to address local healthcare concerns

Over the next year, La Plata Healthcare Improvement Coalition aims to open conversations and develop solutions
Local healthcare stakeholders demonstrate a consent-driven decision making process during the La Plata Healthcare Improvement Coalition Kickoff meeting in June. (Courtesy of Greg Phillips)

Last month, a group of roughly 65 health care professionals, retired physicians and community leaders met to discuss local healthcare issues and develop potential solutions.

They launched a group called the La Plata Healthcare Improvement Coalition last month during its kickoff meeting.

“We're facilitating a process rather than creating organization,” said Greg Phillips, the chair of LPHIC. “We are working to figure out a way to bring all of the entities and town stakeholders who are involved in health care to participate in a facilitated discussion.”

The idea for the coalition spurred from a March 2022 survey conducted by the League of Women Voters of La Plata county. The survey investigated county residents’ experiences and grievances with their local health care systems.

The results, which were posted in the fall of 2022, encouraged the League to fund LPHIC, a decision that gave Greg Phillips and his wife Jan Phillips, who serves as the chair of the League of Women Voter’s Health Care Advocacy Team, the greenlight to move forward organizing LPHIC.

Early steps involved developing a mission statement, creating a public website explaining the coalition’s goals and assembling a group of individuals the Phillips believed would be valuable members of the coalition.

“We wanted to get the leaders from the key providers in the community,” said Greg Phillips. “We have some great folks that are available when needed to provide us with some guidance, and feedback and suggestions.”

The list of LPHIC members includes the CEOs of Mercy and Access hospitals, local government officials, executive directors from nonprofits like the United Way Community Foundation, representatives from the Town of Bayfield and the Southern Ute Tribe, among others.

“One of the elements of (LPHIC) that I think all of us are feeling pretty good about, is that we have brought together a pretty wide range of folks,” said Laurie Meininge, the former president of the League of Women Voters and LPHIC member. “Bringing providers and nonprofits and advocacy groups and citizens together in these meetings has been really fruitful.”

LPHIC operates by separating its members into working groups, each of which is designed to address an issue the public survey responses identified as critical.

“We've tried to create buckets that capture all of the issues and have discussions on them,” Greg Phillips said.

The coalition has six working groups: accessibility, affordability, availability, community benefit, healthcare data, and legislation and policy. Each group has a facilitator, up to two chairs and roughly a dozen members.

While each working group is responsible for creating their own schedules, they are expected to meet once monthly in the early stages of LPHIC.

For a decision to be made in a working group, the entire body must reach consensus via a “consent driven” process.

“We wanted to create an approach where everybody has a voice, and they get the opportunity to express (themselves),” Greg Phillips said.

Once a group member has proposed an issue or concept to the group, the facilitator leads the room in a series of “rounds,” Greg Phillips said.

“The first round is a clarification round. It's a chance to ask questions and make sure you understand the proposal. It's brief,” Greg Phillips said.

The working group then launches into a “reaction round,” where members get the opportunity to express support or objections to the proposal and make possible modifications.

The final round is the “consent round,“ where each member either grants or withholds approval of the original or modified proposal. If consent is not unanimous, the proposal fails.

“The idea behind (the process) is to give everybody opportunity to speak, weigh in and have some impact on the decision making,” Greg Phillips said. “It attempts to create something that everyone can tolerate. You’re not necessarily going to love every single aspect of every proposal, but you get to the point where you say ‘I can I can move forward with this.’”

If a proposal fails, it is not rendered dead, instead it can be modified and proposed again at the next meeting.

Aside from passing proposals, discussions facilitated by the work group provide additional benefits.

“The purpose of the work group may be creating an understanding of what already is being done, and to explore whether there's anyway to strengthen what's being done or to improve through collaboration and or support,” Greg Phillips said.

Over the next 12-15 months, LPHIC hopes to develop possible solutions to the central issues covered by each of the working groups and create a stream of open communication between various stakeholders in local health care.

“(LPHIC) embodies the proverb ‘if you want to go fast, go alone if you want to go far go together,’” Doug McCarthy, a LPHIC member representing the Local First Foundation said. “It’s our goal to achieve something more sustainable and long lasting through this process, even though we’re only meeting for a short term duration.”

While the organization is optimistic about the positive change they can invoke locally, they acknowledge their limitations.

"We've heard people's pain, we've heard their frustrations and their concerns,“ Greg Phillips said. ”We recognize that we're not going to be able to solve some of the problems with a broken healthcare system nationwide, but there we can definitely do better here and fill gaps, trying to make sure people are getting care.“


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